How VR/AR is Revolutionizing E-commerce
Recent years have made it increasingly clear that consumer behavior towards online shopping, known as “e-commerce,” has changed drastically. Even though online shopping has been on the market for some time, there was a level of uncertainty surrounding products intangible at the time of purchase. But now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced us to avoid all physical contact, what previously seemed a secondary buying method has turned into one of the most used ways to shop. In fact, “retail websites generated nearly 22 billion visits in June 2020, compared to only 16.07 billion global visits in January 2020” (Clement, 2020).
With this rise in online shopping, customer expectations have also risen, demanding new and improved shopping experiences. Retail chains daily face the challenge of satisfying these stipulations and creating loyal customers. Here, Virtual Reality and its sibling, Augmented Reality, have turned into the industry’s “ace up its sleeve.”
What is the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?
VR and AR are both immersive and revolutionary technologies, but the difference between them lies in their devices, equipment, and environments in which they’re used.
Virtual Reality gives its user the sensation of total immersion in a digital environment– real or fictitious– with the help of a headset or multiple screens. On the other hand, Augmented Reality manifests digital ideas in the physical world and in real time, using mobile devices.
Summing up, Virtual Reality submerges the user within a totally digital world, while Augmented Reality brings experiences from the digital realm into a physical space.
VR / AR Applied in E-commerce
The e-commerce industry has been added to the long list of those that use VR and AR as business tools. For e-commerce companies, an interactive representation of products allows clients greater confidence in their selections and, therefore, inspires them to return to the site to buy again. Users can select colors, sizes, and prices, and even experience the convenience of trying on products.
Here, we mention some examples of how VR and AR are being used in the e-commerce industry, as part of its efforts to infiltrate all channels:
- Virtual showrooms
Virtual showrooms and stores present consumers with a 100% digital scene, where they can view distinct products, models, and prices– just as they would in a physical showroom. Virtual stores combine the best of both worlds, taking into account the shopping experience offered in a physical store, as well as the convenience of shopping online. Advanced models of Virtual Reality even allow clients to try out products, either from a computer or using headsets.
Kia, worldwide automotive enterprise, is a good example of how VR can be used via web pages. Its virtual showroom is built to allow the exploration of different car models, their characteristics, descriptions, interiors, etc.
On the other hand, a few years back, the Chinese giant, Alibaba, also took advantage of VR’s benefits to bring its customers the largest retail chains in the United States.
- Apps with Augmented Reality
Just as with VR, businesses are ever more implementing AR, scaling their products into real spaces and dimensions. This allows their clients to visualize products and make more informed buying decisions.
Ikea is one of these businesses, with an augmented reality app that lets users measure home furniture and decorations, avoiding the error of buying products that later don’t fit into their designated spaces.
Nike, in its own right, is using the benefits of augmented reality to help customers determine their correct shoe size, being able to buy virtually without fitting issues.
- Augmented Reality Filters
Augmented reality filters allow consumers to test products from the comfort of their own homes, giving them the opportunity to visualize how something might fit and reducing damages caused by product manipulation. Got the idea? Better yet, we’ll show you this visual example:
Warby Parker, glasses and sunglasses company, developed an augmented reality app to let clients try on their products.
Sephora also developed a virtual assistant that saves time and waste in sample makeup, thanks to its facial recognition technology that allows users to try on different colors– even in combination with their outfits.
What are the benefits of virtual and augmented reality in e-commerce?
Improved User Experience and Confidence in Purchasing
A study done by the National Retail Federation in 2019 concluded that 3 of every 5 individuals interviewed felt that the innovations made in retail had improved their shopping experiences (NRF,2019). Although VR and AR may not ever replace the human element, they certainly have improved the online buying experience. The sensation of entering a virtual showroom from the comfort of home, or trying on products with the help of an app, gives you confidence that you’ll like what you’re buying.
- Closing the Gap Between Physical and Online Stores
VR and AR create common ground between physical online stores, bringing together the best of both worlds and offering what many call “v-commerce.” Here, the limits of time and space are lost, replaced by an innovative buying experience.
- Wide Reach and Accessibility
Web and mobile VR and AR applications allow you to reach much farther than you could with only physical stores. With a simple tap or click, buyers can access a complete product catalog. Companies can forget about the pains brought on by multiple and distinct channels, and instead manage an omnichannel business where clients purchase from anywhere. In addition, consumers may also access a much wider variety of products.
- Increase in Surfing Time
Don’t you find that, when you enter a store you like, you spend hours trying out its products? That’s exactly what happens when clients access an online store via VR or AR; they get swept away in the entire product portfolio and its possibilities of testing and interaction. As a result, their navigation time increases considerably.
- Customer Loyalty
Of course, what is most important at the time of implementing VR or AR strategy is client loyalty. The chance to try products– from wherever that is– reduces the friction that exists between online shopping and consumers. A personalized experience + confidence in buying = happy and loyal customers.
The Future of VR and AR
Due to all they have to offer in the e-commerce industry, the exploration of VR and AR is unstoppable and its possibilities endless. Its numerous benefits are causing rapid growth in the application of these tools. Here, we present the numbers that prove it:
In a 2019 study conducted by the market research giant, Nielsen, 64% of those interviewed affirmed that their lives have become busier and that they look to simplify through technological solutions (Travolieri, 2019).
- According to Statista, it is thought that 2022 will see the profits of the AR mobile app market increase to $15.5 billion (Tankovska, 2020).
- According to a study by Lumus Vision, the earnings of the AR retail industry will reach $1.6 billion in 2025 (Lumus Vision, 2018).
It’s therefore clearly predicted that VR and AR will explode in popularity in the coming years. It wouldn’t be surprising if, in a not-so-distant-future, consumers stop frequenting physical stores and instead opt to shop from the comfort of their own homes. These technologies will continue their exponential growth, and adapting to them will be businesses’ sink or swim.
VR and AR have transformed many retail companies, from makeup and clothing to furniture, cars, and luxury goods. The technologies form part of the shopping process, or even culminate it! Everything depends on the buyer’s journey.
So, if what you want as an e-commerce company is to increase your conversion rate, reduce the percentage of product returns, draw new clients, and improve customer loyalty– these innovative technologies could be the answer.
What you have to do now is sit down and consider what solution will best fit your business, choosing a strategic ally to make your ideas real. The possibilities are endless; if you don’t believe us, let the many success stories speak for themselves. At WebCreek, we’re experienced in developing VR and AR solutions that help our clients love their brands even more, and win them a wide competitive advantage in the industry.
Clement, J. (2020, November 03). COVID-19 impact retail e-commerce site traffic 2020. Statista. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1112595/covid-19-impact-retail-e-commerce-site-traffic-global/
Lumus Vision. (2018, April 11). Augmented Reality Trends. Lumus Vision. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://lumusvision.com/augmented-reality-trends-infographic/
National Retail Federation. (2019, June 26). Consumer View Summer 2019. NRF. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://nrf.com/research/consumer-view-summer-2019
Tankovska, H. (2020, September 01). Consumer AR app market revenue worldwide 2016-2022. Statista. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/608990/mobile-ar-applications-installed-base-worldwide-by-type/
Tavolieri, J. (2019, December 12). Augmented Retail: The New Consumer Reality. Nielsen. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2019/augmented-retail-the-new-consumer-reality/